Sculptor Phyllida Barlow’s Concrete Colossus on Stilts Will Tower Over Chelsea This Spring

“This will be one of the largest, most arresting works we have ever shown on the High Line,” says Cecilia Alemani.

Installation view of Phyllida Barlow’s “folly,” at the British Pavilion in the 57th Venice Biennale, Italy, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. © British Council. Photo: Ruth Clark.

The British artist Phyllida Barlow’s first public commission in the US will appear this spring on the High Line, Manhattan’s elevated outdoor walkway. The work, titled prop, features two massive concrete slabs mounted on steel stilts and will stand 30 feet tall. It’s a reimagining of holedhoarding, a sculpture included in Barlow’s installation outside of the British Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale.

“This will be one of the largest, most arresting works we have ever shown on the High Line,” Cecilia Alemani, director of High Line Art, told artnet News. “Phyllida has a wonderful sensibility for materials and scale and, most importantly, she knows how to relate to space and to the surroundings in a powerful and engaging way. Her sculptures convey a sense of vertiginous precariousness, which results from the use of everyday materials, but they also share a sense of monumentality achieved through the sheer size and volume of her pieces.”

Installation view of Phyllida Barlow’s “folly,” at the British Pavilion in the 57th Venice Biennale, Italy, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. © British Council. Photo: Ruth Clark.

Barlow’s sculpture will be installed on the Northern Spur Preserve, a vacant bridge that once connected the High Line to a refrigerating company. It’s the oldest section of the High Line, first opened to the public in 2009, but until now it has never housed any art. Overlooking the corner of Tenth Avenue and 16th Street, the work will be visible from several vantage points, including the Chelsea Market Passage to the south and the strip immediately to the north, where it will be framed by the river and the Statue of Liberty in the background.

An aerial view of the Northern Spur Preserve. Courtesy of Friends of the Highline. Photo: Steven Severinghaus.

prop is a reminder of what might remain from an industrial past,” Barlow said in a statement. “The existing hoardings visible along the High Line are vast, supported by industrially fabricated structures; prop is a mere shadow of those contemporary monuments. In comparison to them, it is a frail copy—a prop in every way.”

Of course, the High Line itself, a stretch of deconstructed railroad, is also a remnant of an industrial past. In that sense, Barlow’s work will appear right at home.

The Northern Spur Preserve above the corner of Tenth Avenue and 16th Street in Manhattan. Courtesy of Friends of the Highline. Photo: Steven Severinghaus.

“I think the most successful artworks on the High Line are those which manage to create a dialogue with the park’s history and design and are able to peel off different layers of history,” Alemani said. “Phyllida’s work often adopts industrial materials like steel and concrete, materials that will rhyme quite beautifully not only with the original steel structure of the High Line but also with the industrial neighborhood surrounding that location.”

Phyllida Barlow’s prop will be unveiled on the High Line on April 26 and remain on view through March 2019.


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